News Archives - Earth Charter

Dialogue on relevance of Earth Charter to contemporary issues

diálogo fotoTo help stimulate dialogue around the relevance of the Earth Charter to contemporary issues, ECI Executive Director, Mirian Vilela, invited Prof. Brendan Mackey* in 2017 to write an essay as a personal reflection on the Earth Charter’s current relevance and the ways in which it can be used to help promote a more just, sustainable and peaceful world.

The idea then evolved to broaden this activity by inviting a group of people, who are engaged with the Earth Charter Initiative, to write a brief response to Brendan’s essay and to share all these reflections on the relevance of the Earth Charter to contemporary issues by posting them on the ECI website.

We hope these materials will stimulate an expanded dialogue on the significant and relevance of the Earth Charter to contemporary issues and the challenges of the Anthropocene. We invite you to read the essays and contribute to the discussion.

Click here to read the essays or see the list below.

We welcome anyone who has been working with and reflecting on the Earth Charter and its uses, to share with us their responses and reflections. If you would like to make a contribution to this dialogue please email a short essay (700 words max.) by 30 June 2018 to the ECI executive director at

We will go through the essays received and put together a digital book with a collection of them. During the 2nd semester of this year, we shall have an online forum on this and the release of this publication.

Thank you!

*Director of Griffith University’s Climate Change Response Programme. Brendan was a member of the Earth Charter Drafting committee, former co-chair of Earth Charter International Council and is a senior advisor of the Earth Charter Initiative.



Mackey, Brendan (2017). “A Reflection on The Earth Charter Project and its Mission in the Anthropocene”

Bernstein, Johannah (2017).  “Earth Charter and Human Rights”

Bosselmann, Klaus, Engel, Ron and Taylor, Prue (2017).   “Giving the Earth Charter a New and More Powerful Voice”

Brown, Donald (2017). “Reflections on Major Obstacles Preventing the Earth Charter Project from Achieving its Long-term Goals”

Capra, Fritjof (2017). “The Community of Life”

Downer, Nigel (2017). “The Earth Charter as a global ethic”

Hacker, Violaine (2017). “Can the Earth Charter Movement Promote the Common Good”

Heyerdahl, Bjorn (2017). “A Re-Genesis: Actioning the Earth Charter”

Lambooy, Tineke (2018). “Understanding how the Earth Charter can serve as a guidance for social enterprises (and legislators)”

Muller, Eduard (2017). “Thoughts and comments about “A Reflection on The Earth Charter Project and its Mission in the Anthropocene¨

Ogbuiweg, Akpezi (2017). “The Contemporary Twist of Hope”

Preston, Noel (2017). Looking Back: Looking Forward”

Robinson, Nick (2017). “Norms for an Ecological Society”

Roerink, Alide (2017). “The Earth Charter: A Game Changing Ethical Guide”

Song, Li (2017). “The Earth Charter – continued global dialogue”


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Rememberance of Ruud Lubbers by Steven Rockefeller

Commission meeting - LubbersIt is with a great sense of loss and sadness that I learnt about the passing of Ruud Lubbers. His life is an extraordinary example of dedicated public service at the local and national level and internationally. For all of us involved in the Earth Charter initiative he was a great friend, an inspiring colleague, and a visionary leader.

Ruud Lubbers played a central role in bringing Maurice Strong and Mikhail Gorbachev together in 1993 and 1994 and in the launch of the Earth Charter consultation and drafting process as a civil society initiative. The support of Queen Beatrix and the generous financial support of the Dutch government during the early years was critical, and it would not have happened without Ruud’s leadership as Prime Minister. It was the support of Ruud and the Queen that made it possible to celebrate the launch of the Earth Charter at the Peace Palace in the Hague.

Ruud was among the most active members of the Earth Charter Commission and was deeply involved in the drafting process. For example, he was a strong supporter of participatory democracy, and it was Ruud’s insistence that led to inclusion of the word “participatory” in Principle 3. A strong advocate for establishing high ethical standards in government and business, he also recognized the importance of including in the Earth Charter universal spiritual as well as ethical values. In his speeches and writings on the Earth Charter, he emphasized both the spiritual and ethical dimensions of the Earth Charter vision.

After the launch of the Earth Charter in 2000, Ruud remained committed to building the Earth Charter movement and to supporting and funding the ECI Secretariat at UPEACE as an instrument for promoting the Earth Charter vision worldwide and for implementing its principles at all levels.  He served for many years on the Earth Charter International Council. It was through the exceptionally generous support of Ruud and his family that the Earth Charter Secretariat was able to build the Earth Charter Center on the campus of UPEACE.

I will always remember Ruud with admiration, gratitude, and deep appreciation for his friendship.  It was a privilege to have had the opportunity to know and work with him over the past two and a half decades. I send my deep sympathy to his family at this time of great loss. Let us all give thanks for Ruud’s life and the deep concern and caring spirit that guided his many efforts to help build a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world.

Warm best wishes,

Steven Rockefeller

Ruud Lubbers and friends

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Tribute to Ruud Lubbers

Lubbers 4Rudolphus Franciscus Marie “Ruud” Lubbers
7 May 1939 – 14 February 2018

It is with deep sadness that I share with you the passing away of Mr. Ruud Lubbers on 14/02/2018. It is hard to say good-bye to him, as he was so special and dear to us. He was a friend and a mentor to me and many of us involved in the Earth Charter Initiative. I am hugely grateful for the opportunity of meeting him and learning so much from him throughout many years of working together.

Mr. Lubbers was a very active Earth Charter Commissioner and great supporter of the Earth Charter for many years. It is a great loss for the Earth Charter Initiative and to the world. However, we have many reasons to be grateful to him. I will always remember his sense of freedom and informality to speak with people and the fact that he was especially comfortable in speaking his mind.

As a political leader. who embraced the deep ethical and spiritual dimensions of sustainable development, he was a unique voice emphasizing the importance to bring ethics to the world of business and politics.

In the last few years of his public life, in speeches he offered at Earth Charter meetings, he often highlighted the importance of nurturing our spirituality and soul. At the Earth Charter+10 event in Ahmedabad, India in 2010, he said:

“We need to include Pneuma / Prana – i.e. spirituality in what we are doing and the way we address challenges. We … now realize that we should nourish ourselves with spirituality… We may even begin to speak about four ‘P’s: People, Planet, Profit and Pneuma”. (Pneuma is the ancient Greek word for “breath” and in a religious context for “spirit” or “soul”)

He often stressed the importance of understanding our responsibility to secure a healthy environment to current and future generations, and of considering new participatory approaches in politics to realize the aspiration of sustainability, which in itself, requires, as he used to say, the willingness and skills to engage, dialogue, and collaborate with different sectors: government, business and civil society sector.

I can still hear his voice saying repeatedly:

“There is a need for complimentary governance. We have always considered politicians to govern and manage the common responsibilities and resources. However, the need is now to involve civil society into governance” (in 2010 at the Earth Charter+10 Conference in Ahmedabad, India).

Herewith we share with you some photos, writings and videos of him.

On behalf of all involved in the Earth Charter Initiative, we send our sentiments and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Lubbers and to the people of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

May his soul rest in peace.

Mirian Vilela
Executive Director
Earth Charter International


lubbers 2

Ruud Lubbers Articles and speeches
Inspiration of Global Governance, Human Rights and the Earth Charter
The Earth Charter to Inspire Governance in Modernity – 2007
Address to the Nobel Peace Prize Centennial Symposium – 2001
A Just, Sustainable and Participatory Society – 1999

Ruud Lubbers Videos
Former PM of the Netherlands, Ruud Lubbers, discusses his involvement in the Earth Charter
Former PM of the Netherlands, Ruud Lubbers, discusses Sustainable Development and Leadership Presentation as UNHCR

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The second edition of the Diploma on Education for Sustainable Development concluded

Unesco Chair logo ENG 2016On 28 November 2017, the second edition of the International Diploma Programme on Education for Sustainable Development, in Spanish and Portuguese were successfully concluded. This Diploma Programme is implemented under the framework of the UNESCO Chair on Education for Sustainable Development with the Earth Charter, and is delivered in collaboration with the University for Peace.

Twenty-three educators participated in these Diplomas, representing nine countries. This Diploma lasts 6 months, is fully developed online and has 5 courses offered by facilitators from different countries. In the final seminar, held on 28 November, participants expressed their great satisfaction with the process, for many it was a transformative experience.

To obtain the Certificate, participants carried out a final project, where they were asked to implement a workshop of a minimum duration of 8 hours, with a target group of interest for the participant. The objective was to deepen learning process by putting into practice elements from the Diploma that they considered important.

In 2018, these Diplomas will be offered again:

Online Certificate on ESD     (*English. Starts 17 January 2018, deadline to apply 15 December 2017)
Diploma on ESD –  Spanish
Diploma on ESD – Portuguese


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Earth Charter and Laudato Si’ book launch at Integral Ecology Symposium

Laudato Si Earth CharterEarth Charter International is pleased to share its latest publication, the book: ¨Voices of the Earth Charter Initiative responding to Laudato Si’ ¨

Find this publication in this link.

This publication aims to identify linkages and contribute to the understanding between the Encyclical Laudato Si’ and the Earth Charter, given that the content and purpose of both are very similar. To achieve this, we have compiled a series of articles written by renowned writers and global leaders, reflecting and deepening on the nexus and meaning of the ethical proposals of these two documents and the challenges they launch.

Authors: Leonardo Boff, Fritjof Capra, Joe Holland, Elizabeth May, José Matarrita, Awraham Soetendorp, Steven C. Rockefeller, Mary Evelyn Tucker, and John Grim.

The ¨International Symposium on Ecology Laudato Si’, Care of the Common House: a necessary conversion to Human Ecology¨; which took place in Costa Rica from November 29 to December 1 of 2017, was an important motivator to create this publication.  This Symposium has been one of the most important international, academic, and ecological events of the year organized by the Vatican (Ratzinger Foundation). The Catholic University of Costa Rica organized the event, with the support of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Foundation, which holds this event annually.

The publication was shared in digital form with more than 600 participants of this Symposium. In addition, it was presented at one of the working sessions that took place on Friday, December 1; which was coordinated by Mrs. Mirian Vilela, Executive Director of the Earth Charter International.

Here are some highlights of the Laudato Si’ Symposium on Ecology:

The Symposium began with formal speeches, where the President of the Republic of Costa Rica, Mr. Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, was present. Then, eight presentations with leading speakers continued (See here the Symposium Agenda).


Pope Francis sent a message to the Symposium. Click here to find it.

Here are excerpts from some of the presentations:

-Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Bishops Congregation, President of the Latin American Pontifical Commission:

¨Why did Pope Francis write the “Laudato Si’ encyclical letter”? Cardinal Ouellet addressed this question in his presentation, saying that the Pope has assumed the urgency of the environmental and sustainability problems of our “common home” and calls for a dialogue with everyone on this issue. This encyclical does not make an appeal to the Catholic Church on a subject, but a call for everyone to participate in an interreligious dialogue that seeks solutions to the existing challenges; this method, according to Cardinal Ouellet, is unheard of for a Pope. The Pope took advantage of the political momentum in 2015, with the launch of the 2030 Agenda and the Climate Summit in Paris, to intensify his call.

20171130_101435In regards to the content of the encyclical, Cardinal Ouellet stated that it makes an assessment of the current situation, not exhaustively, but based on available scientific evidence. The Pope reflects on the current progress, which he mentions is a myth, and that it is worrying that there is an accelerated increase in the development and use of technologies without an ethical reflection on its purposes; which makes it difficult for people to make ethical decisions about these.

Another point to highlight is the clarification of the relationship of reciprocity, and not domination, that human beings should have with nature. The Pope expresses this in paragraphs 67 to 75. He invites us to look at creation in a way that encourages compassion and communion with everyone; and at the same time, it is Christological.

In paragraph 160, Pope Francis warns that what is at stake is our own dignity and survival, promoting in that sense an ecological conversion that aims for a new way of life, a cultural revolution to overcome individualism, promote human solidarity, and universal community with all living creatures. The Cardinal mentioned that the spiritual dimension of this ecological conversion implies rejoicing with little, sobriety, the search for fraternal encounters, and contact with nature (LS 223).

20171201_152910An audacity of Pope Francis, according to Cardinal Ouellet, is to make explicit the connection between the Trinity and creation. Each person acts in communion with the others and in function of the creation, and then the creation is a gift implied in the exchange of the three persons, who give mutual glorification with the creation.

He mentioned as well that the ultimate realization of the human person is to leave behind individualism to connect with others, seeing themselves as servants and guardians of the common home.

-Dr. Tomás Insua, Executive Director of Global Catholic Climate Movement

He invited the audience to get involved in actions that lead to the ecological conversion mentioned by Pope Francis. He recommended the platform: and the Mission 2020 initiative, launched by Christiana Figueres.

He emphasized the time from 1 September to 4 October, called “Time for creation”, as a period set to intensify the awareness of Laudato Si’ message.

– Mons. Fernando Chica Arellano. Permanent Observer of the Holy See before the FAO, IFAD, and WFP.

He reflected on the results of the State of 20171201_090738Food Security 2017 FAO Report, where they asked: why does hunger in the world increases? They identified three major causes:

  • War conflicts (both domestic and international)
  • Climate change effects
  • Social gaps

The Encyclical Laudato Si’, which he considers to be the Ecological Sum of the Catholic Church, is like a compass to guide us in addressing the challenges that are generating famine in the world.

Mgr. Chica mentioned that there are three key words in the Encyclical:

  1. Everyone: it invites everybody to participate, because we are all implicated. The text of the encyclical, which makes this invitation, is like “fine wine”; it does not accumulate years but youth and liveliness.
  2. Urgent: the Encyclical stresses that we do not have time, we must act now; it is the urgency of love, social love at the center of the community of life.
  3. Together: It highlights that we need to work collaboratively, to generate synergies, convergences. Chapter V of the encyclical talks about this (Dialogue).

He invited us to get to work, having a service attitude, nourishing ourselves with what Jesus did in the cross.

Rev. Augusto Zampini. Member of the CAFOD and Theological advisor of the new Dicastery for the Integral Human Development Service of the Holy See.

One of the great challenges that we live, according to Rev. Zampini, is to achieve an inclusive development that incorporates all human dimensions. This vision is included in the concept of integral ecology, which Pope Francis presents and which is based on a relational paradigm, recognizing us as social beings, in relation with other beings and with God.

20171201_104432In terms of the ecological conversion, necessary for an inclusive development, there are important changes to be made in the human heart and on social and political structures. Changing a daily habit requires a great motivation which comes from the deep, that “deep” is spirituality. When we feel saturated, we feel unplugged, but through an integral spirituality it is possible to focus, live in peace, and this liberation helps to move to action. Rev. Zampini recommended reading  the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and the document of Aparecida – V General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopal Council (CELAM).

What contributions could Christian spirituality offer? One aspect is to not put human beings at the center of creation, because this is associated with the paradigm of control. Rather, we must return to the bases towards an eco-centrism, towards the ethics of care, using iconic visions (symbols), which leads us to a contemplation and celebration that brings us closer to nature. Church rituals can serve to reaffirm the common good and our interconnection, because they imply a shared experience of time, where humans discover themselves in a profound way and in relation to others. In addition, these rituals link the human with the sky and the earth. It would be important for all parishes to refresh the notion that the bread of life is converted from the fruits of the earth and the work of “men”, so it is important to take care of the fruits of earth and the work of “men”.

Although he did not explicitly refer to the Earth Charter, he mentioned that Christian spirituality promotes the notion that people should seek to be more and not have more. Also, this spirituality seeks sobriety, which helps us to move away from utilitarianism.

The last two presentations on 30 November focused on instruments for measuring or evaluating social progress and sustainability. Mr. Michael Green, Executive Director of the Social Progress Imperative, presented the report on Social Progress by countries for 2017:

Mr. Roberto Artavia Loría presented an evaluation tool to measure the implementation of the Encyclical Laudato Sí in countries, which will be used by the new Laudato Si’ Observatory, promoted and coordinated by the Catholic University of Costa Rica.

-F. Federico Lombardi, S.J. President of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation.

IMG_2044On the 2nd day of the Symposion, F. Lombardi spoke on behalf of Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, who was unable to attend the Symposium, on the topic of integral ecology in the center of Catholic education. He mentioned the importance of renewing the heart to achieve change. He stressed that the pedagogy of Jesus must be at the center of Catholic education, following the image of the servant, of humility, and reconciliation. Jesus was in close contact with nature, with his environment, and the daily life of the people, for this reason, he found parables close to the context of the people to diffuse his message.

The notion of interdependence with everything is what God asks, and this notion should be present in the integral education programmes related to the Encyclical Laudato Si’; whose approach should generate a resistance to the advancement of the technocratic paradigm. He affirmed the need for a new education that leads to a regeneration and dialogue to care for nature and help the poor.

He urged that the entire Christian community get involved in this education, specifically in schools, where young people are enabled to achieve an integral awareness and the practice of charity. In institutions of Higher Education, transmitting information is not enough, but the approach to the truth through an interdisciplinary dialogue, and where the potential of nature as educator is highlighted. He called for Catholic Universities to include the ethical dimension in their study programmes, using the Encyclical Laudato Si’, as well as studying the issues and current situation in their own contexts, providing an ethical guide.

-Prof. Pe. Josafá Carlos de Siqueira, S.J.: Rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio)

He invited the universities to seek interdisciplinary work with a systemic vision, trying to generate a dialogue of knowledge in the light of Laudato Si’. He mentioned the importance of breaking with the anthropocentric vision, and encouraging small initiatives that help to put into practice interdisciplinarity with a vision of being guardians and caregivers of the common home. He invited everyone to seek to see us as “modest gardeners”.

Mr. Josafá presented on the specific case of the Institutional Environmental Agenda of the PUC of Rio de Janeiro, where a large number of actions are implemented in relation to the environmental management of the institution, and where they have also organized an interdisciplinary nucleus of environment, which coordinates interdisciplinary research efforts.


After the presentations, participants were divided in six Working Group sessions, which addressed different issues and questions.

The groups had a short central presentation offered by an expert on different topics, and then worked on generating inputs for several guiding questions and recommendations for the Laudato Si’ Observatory. The working groups addressed the following topics:

1) The intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet: satisfaction of basic needs and the culture of discarding.

2) The conviction that in the world everything is connected: the environmental balance and social mobility.

3) Criticism of the new paradigm and the forms of power that derive from technology: impact of environmental management for human beings and for our common home.

4) The invitation to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, and the serious responsibility of the international and local politics.

5) The proper value of each creature and the human sense of ecology: exercise of rights and freedom.

20171201_152943Mirian Vilela, Executive Director of Earth Charter International, contributed to Group 4, with a presentation in which she linked the international policies of the United Nations with other similar or related initiatives to Laudato Si’ as the Earth Charter ; and invited the Catholic community to build bridges between the Laudato Si’ and other efforts. In the dialogue, she stressed the importance of education in ethical values, and to ensure a better and more effective articulation and application of policies and laws.

The work and inputs of these groups were presented in plenary, and the Conference ended with a presentation by Mr. René Castro, Assistant Director of FAO, in which he shared the urgency of addressing climate change using examples of reforestation efforts and soil recovery. He indicated that his greatest learning, by participating in this conference, was to visualize the importance of spirituality to address the great challenges of humanity. Mr. Fernando Felipe Sánchez, Rector of the Catholic University of Costa Rica and Father Federico Lombardi offered the closing words, recognizing the transcendence of this event and the importance for the Catholic community (including educational entities) of continuing to work collaboratively for the conversion to integral ecology as articulated in the encyclical Laudato Si’.

Written by: Alicia Jimenez, Director of Programmes of EC Center for ESD.

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Mexican Earth Charter Network latest achievements

Several universities and local governments endorsed the Earth Charter between October and December 2017 thanks to the efforts of the focal points of the Mexican Earth Charter Network.

In Oaxaca, the Technological University of the Central Valley (UTVCO) endorsed the Earth Charter during the Forum of Green Economy and Sustainable Agriculture, organized by this institution in October 2017. Rector Nydia Mata Sánchez signed the endorsement and assured her commitment to strengthen education that innovates, manages knowledge and generates sustainable entrepreneurship. In this news article you can find more information.

Endorsement CIIDIR Oaxaca Mexico

The Interdisciplinary Research Center for Regional Integral Development (CIIDIR) Oaxaca Unit, endorsed the Earth Charter at its 34th anniversary ceremony, held on November 17, 2017.

In the City of Durango, twenty-one universities signed the commitment to the principles and values of the Earth Charter during the International Congress of Sustainable Agriculture, organized by the Technological and Polytechnic Universities, held from October 18 to 20, 2017, with more than 1,500 attendees. Mr. Héctor Arreola, General Coordinator of the Universities highlighted during his speech the importance of using the Earth Charter in universities as an educational instrument to achieve sustainability and promote caring of the planet.  The Governor of Durango, Dr. José Rosas Aispuro Torres was the witness of honor and expressed his support to the implementation of this commitment at the State Government and its entire executive structure.

Endorsement Universities Durango Mexico

In Zacatecas, the municipalities of Guadalupe and Loreto endorsed the Earth Charter. In Loreto, the Cabildo unanimously approved the principles and values of the Earth Charter as an ethical reference to facilitate the practices of sustainable lifestyles among its inhabitants. The Municipal President, Prof. José Luis Figueroa Rangel, stated his intention to constitute a group of public servants who will generate an impact towards different sectors of society through their example and daily work.

Endorsement Guadalupe Zacatecas

Other universities that have endorsed the Earth Charter recently:

– Autonomous University of Chiapas (News article)
– Technological Institute of Tacambaro
– Center of Social and Economic Studies of the Autonomous University of Sinaloa

Youth workshops:


The EC Mexican network focal point in Veracruz organized two workshops for university students of Veracruzana University in two of their campuses (Veracruz and Xalapa), with a total of 108 participants. Particpants learned about the Earth Charter and had a moment to reflect on our current challenges and what can they do about them.

Melchor Ernesto Muñoz, Earth Charter Young Leader facilitated an Earth Charter workshop at the Caribe University in Cancun (more information in this link).

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The Earth Charter featured in the 4th Forum of Solidary Schools of Lleida, Spain

On 18th November 2017, the 4th Forum of Solidary Schools took place in Lleida, Spain, with the participation of teachers who promote values, solidarity and the Earth Charter in their classrooms.

Seventy participants enjoyed the various presentations and activities, among them the presentation “Unesco Projects in Tortosa”, by Mrs. Montserrat Esteve, President of the Unesco Tortosa Friends Association, who spoke about Community Service. The following are some experiences that were showcased during this forum:

– Implícate+ (“Get+involved”) with modding and sustainability. Presenters: Raúl Vallés and 1SMX Lérida INS Caparrella students.

– Community Service. Bridge between Generations. “We connect if we know each other”. Presenters: Teaching team and ESO 3rd grade INS Josep Lladonosa students. Organization: Lleida Down Association.

– “Get+involved” to improve the environment.  Presenters: Pedro Pifarré, Josep Maria Freije and primary school 2nd grade students of the Maristas Montserrat of Lleida High School.

– Your APS . Authors: Joan Dalmau and ESO 4th grade students of Maristas Montserrat of Lleida High School.

– “Get+involved” rebuilding cultures, transforming identities. Presenters: Juan Cuenca and Montse Remacha of INS Guissona de Guissona.

– Community Service. INS Joan Oró of Lérida.

– “Get+involved” with Bob the frog.  How to awaken tolerance from a tale. Presenter: Mónica Berenguer of the Municipal Kindergarten Albarés of Lleida.


 The Forum organized by Implícate + (“Get + involved”) ECI Affiliated organization, was chaired by Mrs. Montserrat Macià, Director of the Institute of Lleida Studies; Mr. Miguel Ángel Cullerés Director of Lleida Territorial Education Services; and Mr. Oscar Castro, President of Lleida Friends of Unesco Association. Other collaborators were the UNESCO Education Commission of Lleida, and the Coordinator of ONGD and other Solidary Movements.

All attendees received a cut-out of the IV Pillar of the Earth Charter, “Democracy, non-violence and peace” during the closing of the Forum.

There are 46 teachers of 40 different educational centers involved in the Implícate + project.  This project aims at bringing about changes in the traditional education paradigm, promoting transversal teaching that goes beyond the formal contents and procedures, towards an active teaching that aims to make the students co-responsible for their future as citizens with an ethical and social commitment to achieve a decent future for all.

This project starte in Lleida, and has received awards from the Impulso Foundation and  Federico Mayor Zaragoza. It currently collaborates with the Earth Charter Initiative and is open to anyone willing to get involved.

This video presents a summary of the Forum:

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Seeds of Hope exhibition in Moscow, Russia

On 25-30 September 2017, the exhibition “Seeds of Hope –Visions of sustainability, steps toward change” was showcased in the framework of the international scientific Conference titled “Globalistics-2017”. The exhibition was held at the lobby of the Russia’s Moscow State University (MSU) Fundamental Library. At the ribbon-cutting event, Dr. Ilya Ilyin, Acting Dean of Faculty of Global Processes, joined to commemorate the first-time showing of the exhibition in Russia.

Seeds of hope Russia

This Conference, held for the fifth time this year under the auspices of UNESCO, aims to serve as a leading platform for the exchange of scientific knowledge and expertise and the development of international cooperation in the area of global studies. Initiated by MSU’s Faculty of Global Processes, it was organized in cooperation with some 17 institutions including the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). Some 1,500 scientists and researchers from 50 countries attended the conference.

The “Seeds of Hope” exhibition was created by the SGI and the Earth Charter International in 2010 and has been shown in 38 countries and territories to encourage viewers to learn, reflect, be inspired and empowered to make sustainable change.

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Global Gathering of Storytellers in Edinburgh and the Earth Charter

Global Gathering of StoryTellers in EdinburgOn 25 – 27 October, a special Global Gathering of Storytellers took place in Edinburgh, as part of the 70th Scottish International Storytelling Festival 2017.

The event “If not now, when?” offered a space for participants to consider “what the role storytellers have in the twenty-first century and how can they contribute to the Earth Charter”.

The Festival celebrates live oral storytelling, past, present and future. This was an outstanding event full of sharing and cross-cultural learning, which among other things had the intention to foster a network of activist’s storytellers.

Mirian Vilela, ECI Executive Director, took part in this event to present the Earth Charter and invite participants to join the Earth Charter movement and link the core message articulated in the Earth Charter to the stories they share.

She emphasized the iMirian Vilela Presentacionmportance to create a new world narrative of life in our shared planet and the important role of stories to help us shift our mind-set.

Grian A. Cutanda, from Avalon Project and Granada University, presented a summary of his doctoral research on Traditional StoryTelling and the Earth Charter.

IMG_0968Cutanda continues to work in a project to collect traditional stories from diverse cultures that can be linked to the Earth Charter principles and is inviting storytellers from around the world to engage with it.

More information on his research can be found in this link:

At this occasion, the Global Gathering of storytellers fully embraced the Earth Charter and expressed their willingness to contribute to the process of linking the Earth Charter to their work and practice of live storytelling.In a specific way, storytellers will collaborate in identifying and collecting traditional stories that speak to each of the Earth Charter principle.

In addition, the Gathering wished to take the first steps towards forming an international network of storytellers committed to the Earth Charter. The Scottish International Storytelling Festival, as host of the Global Gathering, agreed to assist with the first steps in this initiative, in consultation with the Earth Charter Secretariat.

The event was convened by Donald Smith, Director, Scottish International Storytelling Festival and Scottish Storytelling Center. Click here for an article IMG_0942from Mr. Smith that gives some context to the holding of this Global Gathering.


Click here for the programme of the event

Click here for the Scottish Storyteller Center website

Click here for the Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland (TRACS) website





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If not now, when? Reflection by the Director of Scottish International Storytelling Festival



By Donald Smith

Donald Smith

Can imagination change the world? That was the question behind this year’s Scottish International Storytelling Festival, Open Word-Open World. Of course, the answer is ‘not on its own’. However, imagination can change the way we look at things and pave the way for action.

This year, as part of the 70th anniversary of Edinburgh as a Festival City, storytellers chose to support The Earth Charter Initiative. The Earth Charter sets out principles and values that are vital if humanity is to have a future on this planet. Begun in the nineteen eighties, it has been progressively adopted by voluntary organisations, NGO’s and governments round the world.

As you would expect the Charter emphasises ecology, social justice, conflict resolution and education. But above all, it addresses the need to end our alienation from the rest of nature, and realise our connectedness with other forms of life. Earth is first and foremost, the Charter affirms, ‘Our Home’.

Humanity is part of a vast revolving universe. Earth, our home, is alive with a unique community of life. The forces of nature make existence a demanding and uncertain adventure, but Earth has provided the conditions essential to life’s evolution.

The root cause of humanity’s survival crisis is not our part in nature but our disconnect – our willingness to use the rest of existence as a tool designed only for us, to be discarded or even destroyed when we think that its usefulness is exhausted. That profound alienation from life is a matter for imagination and emotion. It is our apathy- our lack of fellow feeling- that is destroying the planet and ourselves with it.

Yet we are part of nature, and nature is part of us. The web of life is inclusive and inter-connected. Storytellers have woven these relationships and patterns into their narrative webs for millennia. Stories generate understanding and engage hearts as well as minds. That is why the Storytelling Festival brought storytellers together in a Global Gathering to consider what they can contribute to The Earth Charter. This discussion could shape their worldwide art and practice for decades to come.

However, why in Scotland, and in Edinburgh? Seventy years ago, Edinburgh was launched as a European Festival city in order that after six years of bloody global conflict, the arts would be re-established as a means of peaceful understanding and co-existence. The location was inspired by the Scottish Enlightenment with its sense of universal human rights and values, yet also with an awareness of the need for new Enlightenment to embrace a post-colonial world.

The Scottish Enlightenment though did not end with the eighteenth century- a common misunderstanding- but continues to the present day. One of the Scottish Enlightenment’s most creative thinkers, Patrick Geddes, belongs to the early twentieth century. He was celebrated in the Edinburgh Art Festival this summer because of his seminal influence on ‘Making the Future’ and he is also an inspirer of the Storytelling Festival and Centre.

Geddes was an ecologist before his time, a community arts activist, a sociologist, an educationalist, a social reformer, and a ground breaking civic planner. Moreover, his ideas were formed in the crucible of Edinburgh’s then decaying Old Town, where he brought people together to re-story the future. That is what puts Geddes right into the present day- our potential to change the narrative.

Patrick Geddes defied the still prevalent idea that life is driven by competition and conflict- the survival of the fittest. Instead he emphasised that human consciousness can change and evolve, beyond the legacy of physical evolution. Humanity can think and feel differently and so make the future. Yet creative change can only happen, according to Geddes, if we understand our place in the wider universe of life.

There is a lot of Patrick Geddes in The Earth Charter. Nevertheless, the time has come for a leap of consciousness, a step-change rather than gradual development. This is the opportunity posed by humanity’s current crisis- the possibility of a radical shift. However, if we shift backwards into barbarous conflict, that is also the threat. What would a leap forward involve?

We might turn for an answer to a modern storyteller, John Berger, who meditated long and hard on the meaning of the art of live stories. A year before his death at 90, Berger described storytelling as above all an act of hospitality. A willingness to share someone else’s experience and emotions. To wear as it were someone else’s clothes, and feel their lives on our bodies, minds and hearts.

Could such acts of radical empathy hold the clue to our common future? As Berger had written years before, ‘to try to understand the experience of another, it is necessary to dismantle the world as seen from one’s own place within it and to reassemble it as seen from his.’ Or, in the phrase that made Berger famous, we can cultivate ‘another way of seeing’.

Yet that requires a leap of imagination, because as human beings we have inherited a different habit of thought and feeling. ‘Us and Them’ is our underlying default psychology. Regularly we revert to a group mentality of insiders and outsiders. Even in the routine practicalities of everyday life, we have to make an effort to include the outsider, to step out of our habitual comfort zones.

However, such low-level exclusions are also the source of oppression, injustice, conflict and violence on a large scale. When the underlying group mentality takes hold under pressure we are individually and collectively capable of horrifying cruelty, because the ‘Them’ are no longer part of the human ‘Us’. A dehumanised ’Them’ become the object of indifference or even virulent hatred.

The human ability to alienate and hate has been greatly increased by social media. The absence of face-to-face contact makes it easier to name call, denigrate and abuse other people. Gradually that habit of mind corrupts and degrades our social solidarity.

Yet, through self-awareness and empathy, we have the ability to change. When abused others are recognised as characters in a story we share, we can no longer dehumanise them as alien beings. Or as the old proverb has it, ‘once I have heard my enemy’s story, he is no longer my enemy’. Social media also has the power to connect. If North Koreans were able to speak with people beyond their borders, then the bubble of fear in which they are forced to live would be burst.

In leaping the mental barricades of division, we use imagination, but also reason, because we are all inter-dependent, with one common home, the earth. There is no ‘final solution’ that evades the need to live together. The efficacy of destruction and death is a delusion of misdirected power. In the end, the bell is also tolling for us.

Still, the decisive attraction of radical empathy may not be reason or imagination but its emotional fulfilments. We are above all creatures of emotion. The feelings generated by inclusion and fellow-feeling are richer and more fulfilling than a group mentality driven by fear and insecurity. Negative emotion gnaws away at the wellbeing not only of its objects but its subjects too. What is true on a personal level also applies to communities, ethnicities, and nationalities. Hostility is a slow killer, hatred an outright poison.

What might trigger a leap of consciousness? Angus Peter Campbell, poet and storyteller, has just published a novel called ‘Memory and Straw’. In it, a young Artificial Intelligence innovator is working on designing mask-bots with human facial characteristics for robots. They will replace carers looking after the elderly and infirm. This work sets Gavin off on a journey into his own family history, which his partner Emma does not share. As she and Gavin sit looking at the rebuilt Reichstag in Berlin, she tells him:

Your proper work should really be this. To make a story out of glass and steel, not memory and straw. You need to deal with things, as they are, not how they were.

But, Gavin’s personal quest has already overtaken his commitment to technological innovation – he has been captivated by memory and straw.

Angus Peter Campbell acknowledges this antithesis yet moves beyond it. There are two things, he senses that can unite us as human in both realms- glass and steel; memory and straw. These are the love of the present moment, its diversity, richness and uniqueness. Or, as John Berger puts it, ‘hold everything dear’.

However, to enable this awareness we have sometimes to live in slow time. We have to experience our own selves as something real and present, for it is in that way we experience the life of everything around us as significant and real. To empathise with others, and other forms of life, helps gives us a consciousness beyond just existing. In the act of storytelling, a community of awareness is created. The individual consciousness is caught up into something richer and enriching, as the ‘I’ of experience, becomes the ‘we’ of shared story.

Some look to religion to provide such a sense of meaning. If human beings, with or without religious beliefs, act as if life has meaning, then we create the meaning, and become part of it. Storytelling is an art that creates meaning through what links disparate events into a narrative, the atoms into a dance.

Storytellers and story listeners share the making of meaning by what they put into the gaps between the words. They are co-creators and inventors. Therefore, we can endorse the excellent principles and values of The Earth Charter, but it is by storying and living them that the future will be changed. Angus Peter Campbell gives this insight, in a musical metaphor, to Gavin’s partner Emma, who is a composer.

I bet you looked at the notes and said to yourself ‘Music!’. But you’d be wrong. That’s not music on the other side of this page –  just lines and dots and symbols. The music doesn’t happen until you sing through and round and between the marks.

As the Scottish International Storytelling Festival approached, the worst consequences of humanity’s default psychology- ‘Them and Us’ – were once again on global display. The destructive folly of harnessing such emotions for political ends is terrifyingly apparent. The rest of Planet Earth is required to wait on the side-lines, while single track humans indulge in competitive displays of technological power, that are fatally undermining our own means of existence. Such delusions of control literally ‘cost the earth’.

However, the seeds of a different future are already in our hands, minds and hearts. The Global Gathering felt for participants like a transformative event. There was radical empathy and a creative passion to open up the shared web of life; to fully connect us with the diverse riches of nature’s patterns and possibilities. The Gathering took the first tentative steps towards forming a global network of storytellers to work with the Earth Charter.

Above all, there was hope, and joy. The future is a story we can make together. If not now, when?

Donald Smith is Director of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival 2017, Open Word-Open World. ‘Memory and Straw’ by Angus Peter Campbell was published in August 2017 by Luath Publishing.

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